When smooth-as-they-come duo Honne released their first music almost two years ago, the promise was unquestionable. The feeling that they tapped in to might not have been anything particularly groundbreaking, but with an after-hours-ambience and super smooth backdrop, those early tracks felt like a blueprint for bigger and better things.
In the time since, that promise has threatened to slip, and on their debut LP Honne fail to realise that promise with any kind of conviction. It remains evident that the pair stellar pop songs in their armoury, but their over-reliance on a standard formula finds this debut stuck in a bit of a creative rut. What once felt smooth becomes increasingly dull and what once felt steamy drags across into sleazy territory, the whole affair constructed in such a clinical manner that it proves difficult to rouse.
It’s not time to write off Honne just yet, and there are positives to be drawn from this record. The title track along with ‘All In The Value’ remain standouts of their early steps, while the earworm of a collaboration with Izzy Bizu – ‘Someone That Loves You’ – injects some much needed life. It’s on the closing ‘FKHD’ that the pair spread their wings widest – a sprawling (at least by this album’s standards) house-inflected composition that prods at untapped ground, demonstrating that there’s more breadth to Honne’s ambition that this debut gives them credit for.
But having said that, when things get bad, they really scrape the barrel. ‘It Ain’t Wrong Loving You’ is the most notable offender, and sums up all of the record’s least attractive features. On top of the most unimaginative of melodies and rhythms, rhymes barely worthy of a secondary school poetry reading are mumbled out – “Don’t care what you got, don’t care what you’re missing / You got what I need, you got them lips for kissin’” – alongside some questionably controlling lyrics for good measure – “Now’s your chance to make it right, don’t listen to anybody else but me tonight / I don’t care what they say, I’m gonna have my way.” Lay off a bit, mate.
It’s these moments of non-inspiration that have the lasting impression on ‘Warm On A Cold Night’. Seemingly preoccupied with maintaining this super-smooth aesthetic, we don’t get a glimpse of any unique identity or defining characteristics. It’s a debut that shows signs of life, but is ultimately stunted by the shallowness of the music and concepts that shape it.
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